Saturday, December 29, 2012

More on Disposable Heroes

I started to write this as a comment on Talysman's blog, but then it got long and I decided I'd like to keep it here, too.

Yesterday's post was about why I think it's contradictory on some level to expect players to have their characters flee, and play games that make characters less valuable and more easily replaceable. In brief, why make your disposable hero run?

What I'm not saying is that people come out and say that characters are disposable. Or that players believe they are, and they don't care if they lose them. Or that GMs organize all games with the assumption that PCs are disposable.

I'm saying (in part) that being blase about TPKs, not worrying about encounter balance, having character funnels, and praising lethality implies some level of disposability of characters. To me, that's inherent in those ideas taken as a whole. So I wondered, maybe there is a perfectly valid reason a player might have their character do risky stuff, fight battles they might not win, and experiment with things that can be character-lethal but oh-so-entertaining. You might need one to get the other - maybe the fun can't happen in that way without both elements.

I don't think it is either/or, however. You can have high-value (even irreplaceable) characters and high lethality. I ran a game like that for years - just ask the half-dozen or more PCs who died permanently in that game. But I also think you get more risk avoidance and running from monsters than when you the player are just trying to see who lives to improve/level up/etc. In that game, with many of the same players I have now, avoiding fights was paramount and dodging away from things they perceived as death threats was common, even if there was a reward. These same guys now test teleporters in terrible circumstances, and launch into bloody fights with things that can kill them dead, and push one more room and laugh when it turns out disastrously. I draw a lesson from the fact that in this current game, the characters are ultimately replaceable in a way they weren't in my last game.

I seems clear to me that there is some connection between how easily you can replace characters (all the way up to the Undo-button of a Save Gave in a video game) and your willingness to risk death. You play Hardcore Diablo much more cautiously than regular Diablo, and and you'd play even more carefully if you couldn't make a new guy if you died.

In my DF game, which is high-lethality with easy replacement of characters, lots of PCs have died. But for the players, the only loss, is the loss of the fun of playing that particular guy.

So it's less surprising to me that they flee pretty rarely.

1 comment:

  1. Journey and destination.

    If the point of the fun is the journey - hanging with friends, solving puzzles, killing monsters and taking their stuff, then even a game with permanently dead characters isn't really about the characters. It's about the players, which is fine with them (and me!).

    If the point is to somehow "win" the game, and the journey isn't very interesting (or is very painful to repeat), then you get the "just run" thing a lot.

    I think the second describes a video game that must be played through - painstakingly - but you can't save your progress at all. Unless the start of a game and the end of a game are equally fun, you're not going to risk having to start from the beginning.


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